Joey Swinarski had some difficult decisions to make as a high school junior in 2013.
The highly-touted outfielder was projected as a top 10 selection for the MLB Draft the following year and could have remained at The First Academy (Fla.) for his final season.
Instead, the then 17-year old Swinarski left his friends, family and high school teammates behind to make the move to Mississippi State to begin his college career on the diamond after graduating a year early.
“I’m majoring in aerospace engineering and I value my education a lot,” Swinarski said. “I looked at my draft stock and balanced it out. I thought this was my best approach so I could develop as a player. I was looking more at the long term than the short term.”
During his final season in high school, Swinarski was named a second team Underclassman All-American by Perfect Game after hitting .405 with seven home runs in just 23 games.
He earned scholarship offers from South Carolina, UCF, Ole Miss and Florida but one trip to MSU was enough to seal the deal on his recruitment.
“This was my top choice and it was for a while,” Swinarski said. “This was one of the first places I visited and from then, nothing compared to it. Nothing could compare to the fan atmosphere and the coaching staff. That’s what really sold it for me.”
Swinarski redshirted his initial season in Starkville while packing on 24-pounds up to 190 along his 6-foot-1 frame. He then went up to play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer but was limited to just 11 games after suffering a concussion.
“Redshirting as a true freshman really helped me out,” Swinarski said. “I thought that was a good decision to make. I got a lot stronger and my mental approach is a lot better for the game.”
Swinarski made his collegiate debut on opening weekend this past spring as a pinch hitter against Miami (Ohio). Although it ended in a strikeout, it was a moment he had been waiting on for a long time.
“It was exciting and it felt good to get in the box,” Swinarski said. “It felt good to see a live pitcher and all the fans in the stands. I was just trying to be aggressive and make things happen.”
Swinarski went on to appear in six games this season but fanned in six of his seven at bats. He did reach base on a hit by pitch and later scored against Cincinnati.
“The speed of the game is a lot faster,” Swinarski said. “Pitchers here are a lot smarter. In high school you could almost guess which pitches you were going to get and 75 to 80-percent of the time you’re going to be right. Now you can’t guess. You’ve got to have a good approach, see the ball and get your best swing off at it.”